Jewish man arrested in Israel for allegedly making bomb threats against Jewish centres in US

Raf Sanchez
The suspect (right) is believed to suffer from psychological problems - AFP

A young Jewish man has been arrested in Israel on suspicion of masterminding the wave of bomb threats made against Jewish centres in the US and around the world this year

The 19-year-old man holds both Israeli and American citizenship and used “advanced camouflage technologies” to shield his location and throw investigators off his scent, Israeli police said. 

The arrest in Israel was made as part of a joint probe with the FBI and Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general, hailed it as the “culmination of a large-scale investigation spanning multiple continents”.

The arrest is another strange twist in the story of around 150 bomb threats made against Jewish schools, community centres and synagogues in the US since January. 

The unrelenting string of calls rattled America’s Jewish community and led to accusations that Donald Trump’s White House was not doing enough to speak out against the anti-Semitic threats.

Using a tool to distort their voice, the caller would contact different Jewish organisations and warn that “in a short time a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered”.

Many analysts suspected the threats were being made by American white supremacists who may have felt emboldened by the election of Donald Trump.

But three weeks ago the FBI arrested a black, Left-wing American reporter named Juan Thompson on suspicion of making at least some of the threats. US prosecutors said he made eight threatening calls as a way of harassing and intimidating his ex-girlfriend.

Juan Thompson was arrested by the FBI in March on suspicion of making bomb threats Credit: (BRIC TV via AP)

It was not clear what motivations the Jewish man might have for allegedly making the threats in the US as well as in Australia and New Zealand but he appears to have mental problems. 

An Israeli court barred the media from publishing his name but his defence lawyer, Galit Bash, told a court that he suffered from “severe medical problems” that might impact his psychological state. 

“There is concern that his medical condition affects his cognitive functioning,” the lawyer said. 

The Jerusalem Post reported that he was an American who had made aliya, the process by which any Jew from any country can become an Israeli citizen. The Israeli military reportedly declined to draft him into the army because he was unfit to serve. 

A judge has banned the media from identifying the suspect arrested in Israel Credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Police arrested him at his home in the coastal city of Ashkelon on Thursday and a judge approved a police request to hold him until March 30. Authorities said they found antennas and satellite equipment at the house.  

"He didn't use regular phone lines. He used different computer systems so he couldn't be backtracked,” said Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman. 

He is alleged to have been making the threats for several years and Israeli police said he was responsible for forcing a Delta airlines flight to make an emergency landing in 2015.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency obtained a recording of one of the calls made on January 18 and Jewish Community Centre (JCC). A voice that seemed to be disguised with technology gave a graphic warning of what they said was to come.             

“In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered,” the voice said. “There’s a lot of shrapnel. There’s going to be a bloodbath that’s going to take place in a short time. I think I told you enough. I must go."

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